The southern state of Chiapas is one of the most fascinating regions of all Mexico, combining as it does rich tropical forests. dramatic canyons, multi-coloured lakes, indigenous Mayan villages and the ruins of Palenque, with a jungle setting that makes it arguably the most atmospheric and beautiful of all the Mayan sites.
San Cristobal de Las Casas
San Cristobal de Las Casas is a characteristically indigenous Chiapaneca town nestled in the heart of the jungle highlands. Reach San Cristobal in a two-hour drive from Tuxtla Gutierrez via the spectacular Sumidero Canyon. En route, the tropical heat and vegetation gradually give way to the cooler mountain air and pine forests that surround San Cristobal.
In the foothills of the Tumbala mountains, the ancient Maya site of Palenque sits on a ledge overlooking the swampy plains that stretch northward all the way to the Gulf coast. Palenque was at its height between 500 and 700 AD, when its influence extended throughout the basin of the Usumacinta River. The elegance and craftsmanship of the buildings, as well as the lightness of the sculpted reliefs with their Mayan mythological themes, attest to the creative genius of this civilization.
Yaxchilan and Bonampak
For the more adventurous and those who wish to explore the lesser visited Mayan sites, journey further south to the Guatemalan border to Yaxchilan and Bonampak. Accommodation is basic and roads are bumpy but it does provide a good overland route into northern Guatemala towards Flores area and the site of Tikal.
A tour to San Cristobel and Palenque is a great way of discovering all the spectacular Mayan sites in this southern region for those who are fascinated by the history and architecture of the Maya civilisation.
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